ESPHS Commemorates 30 Years of Tours this Memorial Day Weekend (2024)

-- 2024 marks the 30th anniversary of public tours at Eastern State Penitentiary --

May 20, 2024

To mark its30th anniversary of public tours, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site (ESPHS) invites visitors to rediscover how this landmark has evolved from the world's first penitentiary to a world-renowned museum and leader in criminal justice education. From May 24 through 27, visitors to the historic site can immerse themselves in Eastern State Penitentiary's rich history and ongoing legacy through hard-hat tours, panel discussions, art projects, and more.

From Friday, May 24 through Monday, May 27, museum admission to Eastern State Penitentiary includes all standard programming—”The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, Unlocking History experiences, exhibits, and art installations—as well as special commemorative programs:

  • Commemorative Tours: When Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site opened to the public in 1994, visitors were required to wear hard hats while exploring the fragile site. This Memorial Day Weekend, museum visitors can walk in their footsteps and explore areas usually closed to the public, including Cellblock 14.
    Friday, May 24: 12:00 p.m.
    Saturday, May 25: 11:00 a.m.
    Sunday, May 26: 11:00 a.m.
    Monday, May 27: 12:00 p.m.

    Included with the public guide-led tour and discussion. Space is limited. Guide-led tour ticket required.
  • Panel Discussion: A Memorial to Preserve: Attendees can learn how the Eastern State Task Force saved the penitentiary from the wrecking ball in the 1980s with three members of the original Task Force: ESPHS’s CEO Emeritus Sally Elk and early historic site tour guides David Brownlee and Ann Brownlee. The discussion includes unique photos and stories from the site’s abandonment to today. Moderated by ESPHS President and CEO, Dr. Kerry Sautner.
    Saturday, May 25, 12:00 p.m.
  • Panel Discussion: Preserving Eastern State Today: Attendees can engage with the staff helming Eastern State’s current preservation efforts and visions for the future, including the innovative Preservation Trades Center. Featuring Liz Trumbull, Director of Preservation, Facilities, and Trade Programs; Jessica Senker, AIA, Principal at J&M Preservation Studio; and Sara Gdula, Architectural Conservator, Heritage Conservation Collective. Moderated by ESPHS Visitor Services Lead Sam Hone.
    Sunday, May 26, 12:00 p.m.
  • Panel Discussion: Collections Conversation: Attendees can hear from the team who cares for the historic site’s collection, from the building itself to the hundreds of artifacts that tell the stories of the people who lived and worked at Eastern State. Featuring Erica Harman, Manager, Archives and Records, and Lance Kniskern, Preservation Project Coordinator. Moderated by Damon McCool, Senior Manager, Program Development.
    Monday, May 27, 11:30 a.m.

In honor of Memorial Day Weekend, the historic site’s special programming also offers opportunities to reflect on the importance of military service during the penitentiary’s operational years and pay tribute to those who served and sacrificed:

  • War Effort Pop-Up Talks:
    Eastern State Penitentiary opened its doors in 1829 and shuttered in 1971. This means that people lived and worked in the penitentiary during the Civil War and both World Wars. How did these conflicts impact daily life at Eastern State? Visitors can meet at the commemorative WWI plaque in the penitentiary’s central hub to learn that and more.
    Friday through Monday, select times

    Visitors can also tour the penitentiary’s Hospital Wing and learn about the prison's historical blood drives and other contributions during times of war.
    Friday through Monday, select times

  • Decoration Day Art Project: Visitors can create an art project honoring the prisoners and staff of Eastern State who served in the U.S. Military. This activity is fit for all ages.
    Friday through Monday, 10 am – 5 pm

All Memorial Day Weekend activities are included with standard admission. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit EasternState.org.

About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site:
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long-abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.

For more information, visit EasternState.org and follow Eastern State Penitentiary on Facebook, Instagram, X, Threads, and Tik Tok.

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This #MDW marks the 30th anniversary of public tours at @EasternState Penitentiary. Rediscover how this landmark has evolved from the world's first penitentiary to a cornerstone of justice education w/ special themed hard-hat tours & panel discussions. EasternState.org

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When @EasternState Penitentiary opened to the public 30 years ago, visitors were required to wear hard hats while exploring the fragile site. Walk in their footsteps this #MDW and tour areas usually closed to the public, including Cellblock 14. Learn more: EasternState.org

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ESPHS Commemorates 30 Years of Tours this Memorial Day Weekend (2024)

FAQs

Who is the new director of the Eastern State Penitentiary? ›

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site Appoints Dr. Kerry Sautner as President & Chief Executive Officer. The Board of Directors of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site (ESPHS) announced today that Dr. Kerry Sautner has been selected as the new President and Chief Executive Officer.

Who was the youngest inmate in the Eastern State Penitentiary? ›

Meet John Maxfield, the Youngest Eastern State Penitentiary Inmate. John Maxfield was incarcerated at Eastern State Penitentiary for the first time in 1840 at 11 years old.

What famous mobster went to Eastern State Penitentiary? ›

Alphonse "Scarface" Capone

Chicago's most famous mob boss spent eight months at Eastern State in 1929-1930. Arrested for carrying a concealed, deadly weapon, this was Capone's first prison sentence. His time in Eastern State was spent in relative luxury.

Who was the most famous prisoner in Eastern State Penitentiary? ›

Notable Prisoners

These vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America's most notorious lawbreakers, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and "Scarface" Al Capone.

What is the eye of God in the Eastern State Penitentiary? ›

The cells were made of solid concrete and contained a single skylight to let the sun in, which was designed to represent the "Eyes of God." Even when prisoners were outside in their exercise lots they followed a schedule that ensured they were never close enough to another prisoner to allow any conversation.

Did anyone ever escaped from the Eastern State Penitentiary? ›

Over the course of the prison's 142 years of operation, the facility saw more than 100 escape attempts, and at least 59 people managed to make it outside Eastern State's 30-foot-tall (and at least ten-foot-deep) perimeter walls.

Who was the most famous prisoner in the Eastern State Penitentiary? ›

Notable Prisoners

These vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America's most notorious lawbreakers, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and "Scarface" Al Capone.

Why is the Eastern State Penitentiary scary? ›

The harsh punishments used on prisoners are enough to make you shiver even without seeing a ghost. There was the water bath, in which inmates were dunked then hung out on a wall in winter until ice formed on the skin.

How many people were executed at Eastern State Penitentiary? ›

While executions never took place at Eastern State, the site has its own complex history with the death penalty. After its founding on principles of penitence through isolation in 1829, Eastern State's goals, practices, and facilities were inevitably shaped by the evolution of the American criminal justice system.

What famous person stayed at Eastern State Penitentiary? ›

Its vaulted, sky-lit cells held nearly 85,000 people over its long history, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and "Scarface" Al Capone.

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